Dressing for Your Company’s Corporate Culture

Let’s face it – dressing for success in the corporate world used to be a no-brainer. Men wore suits and women wore skirts and dresses.  In the past few decades the corporate dress code at most workplaces has relaxed or almost completely disappeared. This makes decoding the dress code more of a challenge. Research all you want but, there are always unspoken rules and it’s more complex than just business (dress or skirt and suit and tie) or business-causal (blouse and pants or button-down and khakis).

In the old days, it was clear that the guy in the suit was the boss. In today’s world the guy in the hoodie could very well be the boss – and if that’s the case you may get scoffed at for coming to work in a suit.

Today, employees are given more freedom than ever in their choice of work attire, especially in more creative fields. Figuring out how to fit in at work while reconciling your personal style with corporate expectations can be tricky.

My best advice is to look around the office – take note of what others are wearing. Who is dressed up? Who is dressed down?  Are people wearing jeans? Shorts?  How long are hemlines?  Is there is a divide in the way people dress? If so, why? Notice how people treat each other. I suggest noting what the higher-ups are wearing and following suit. No pun intended. Underdress and you’re not taken seriously; overdress and you’re a douche. Navigating these waters carefully is important to your success.

I consult for many companies and because of the way I present myself people who don’t know me often assume I am “somebody important” I follow the lead of the leaders.  Most places I consult for have relaxed dress codes so when I’m working there I very rarely, if ever, wear a dress, skirt, or business suit.  I am usually in pants or dark jeans and either a great blouse or a simple top and blazer. I am dressed simply yet stylish and approachable with a slight air of authority. Indeed,  I want people to think I have some sort of power or influence over them. If they think I do – guess what? I do! And that is a strong tool for the climb up the corporate ladder.

Here are some simple hardline do’s and don’ts when dressing for success:

  • Always be neat and pressed. Avoid ripped or tattered clothing!


  • Avoid any promotional clothing unless it’s your company’s.


  • Opt for a button down over a polo – it’s just more polished.  If you do wear a polo it should not be one you wear to the golf course – unless of course you work for a golf company.


  • Watch your hemline.  The old rule still applies – if it is shorter than your fingertips it is too short for the workplace.


  • Fit is key.  When your clothes fit properly, they not only look better, they also look more expensive.


  • Unless you’re working outside, a baseball or wool cap is NEVER okay.


  • We know athleisure is all the rage but if you wear it to the gym don’t wear it to work.